Alternative lender SoFi becomes Fico-free zone

Alternative lender SoFi becomes Fico-free zone

US online lending powerhouse SoFi has declared itself a Fico-free zone, ditching traditional credit scores in favour of what it claims are more useful data.

Following a pilot, the San Francisco-based outfit will now decide whether to hand out loans based on three criteria - employment history, track record of meeting financial obligations and monthly cash flow minus expenses.

SoFi, which has funded more than $6 billion in loans and recently closed a record-breaking $1 billion funding round, says that it is the first "large lender" to ditch a Fico model it argues is "flawed and outdated".

"Our approach to underwriting is based on transparency and balancing the needs of our members and investors, and we found that the Fico score was anything but transparent. So we threw it out," says CEO and co-founder Mike Cagney.

"We're proud to be the only major lender that does not use the score for any lending. Instead of relying on a three digit number to tell us who's qualified, we look for applicants who have historically paid their bills on time and make more money than they spend. It's that simple."

Profitable since 2014, SoFi was the first company to enable graduates to consolidate and refinance their federal and private student loans. It has since expanded its offerings to include mortgages, mortgage refinancing, and personal loans.

Comments: (3)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 12 January, 2016, 21:29Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes


Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 13 January, 2016, 12:03Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

FICO has stood the test of time and measures the track record of repaying debts. SoFi wishes to take its loan decisions based on ability to repay debts. Sounds fine on paper but, historically, poor people have a near 100% track record of repaying their consumer loans whereas banks are regularly forced to restructure their loans to many apparently rich corporations. Only time will tell whether ability to repay debt is the same as the intent and, therefore, the action, of repaying debts. 

I read a comment from Ryan Conley below a WSJ article on the same subject. Since it resonates so well with my own thoughts, let me reproduce it below:    


Let's see... They are granting credit to the borrowers the traditional lenders don't want at low, low rates. Where have I heard this before? Unbelievable. ... I predict the returns of these new lenders' loans, throughout a full cycle, will be miserable if not disastrous.


A Finextra member
A Finextra member 13 January, 2016, 17:54Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

It is said life goes through a full cycle. Till recently countries like India relied on the exact same model that SoFi is now 'pioneering'; and currently transitioning to third party credit score reliance for credit decisions. It will be interesting to watch SoFi as it moves forward, and the industry knows 2 years is too short a time to even make predictions.  Who will be the last one standing?